“Excuse me… teacher, when are we going to learn ‘the crane’?”
I look down and see a tiny hand pulling on my gi pants.
The hand belongs to one of the kids in class, and he repeats his question, looking up at me with hopeful question marks in his big eyes. “We want to learn ‘the crane'” he says again, and suddenly another boy chimes in, “Yeah, when are we going to learn that?”.
Like you’ve probably figured out, I now have five or six kids climbing on me, trying to torture me to learn them ‘the crane’ one day.
Where did they get that idea to begin with?
I mean, these kids weren’t even born when The Karate Kid came out. My guess is they’ve probably seen Kung Fu Panda (which rocks by the way!) or maybe some other show which made a reference to the mysterious ‘crane’ move.
“Okay, okay, enough, let me go and I’ll tell you!” I tell the kids, who are now beginning to pull my hair.
Looking suspiciously at each other, they slowly release their holds of me, with a trace of doubt, and I back away.
“Listen up, kids, it’s like this: There is no such thing as…” is all I manage to blurt out before my conscious catches up with me. What am I going to tell them? I start to doubt.
Should I give them the truth? Tell them that we don’t practise ‘the crane’ as seen on TV? That they’ll never be taught how to do those moves?
Looking at their big puppy eyes, I have no option but to do one thing: I clear my throat, get down on one knee and whisper: “When the time is right, and when you are ready for it, I promise I’ll teach you the secrets of ‘the crane’. And if you are really good, I might even teach you ‘the dragon’. But you must prove that you deserve it first, by training hard every class!”
The kids look like it’s Christmas in Karate Land.
I just hope they’ll have forgotten it by next week.
Because you know the truth – nobody will ever teach them ‘the crane’. At least not as long as the class is called Karate.
But what’s the use of the truth if you can’t tell a lie sometimes?
Lie being, in this case, ‘bending the truth’.
Because as we all know, the crane does exist in Karate. Just not in the way they imagine it to be. And not in their near future.
But let’s forget about ‘the crane’ for a second, and dig a little deeper. Let’s think about how ‘the crane’ can easily be replaced by something else equally ‘mystic’ and ‘advanced’. And the kids can easily be swapped for adults.
And that’s perhaps one of the greatest ‘lies’ that we have in Karate.
Resembling the idea of finding a giant pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, people who practise Karate surprisingly often think there is some secret treasure hidden at the end of the road of Karate.
Not necessarily ‘the crane’, like our kids think, but maybe something more abstract like one day becoming really skilled at doing a kata, or becoming super great at kumite.
Or even more complex:
(That’s ‘satori‘ for you Japanophiles.)
The idea that almost everyone of us has is that every punch, every kick, every class, every belt is just a stepping stone on the way to that ‘something’.
For the kids it was simply ‘the crane’.
Some of us haven’t even paid a thought to what that ‘something’ really is, but still definitely think that there is ‘something’ there at the end of it all, whatever it might be.
Though many wouldn’t admit it.
Some don’t even know it.
Actually, a parallel to religion (and heaven) is not hard to draw.
And the sad part of it all is of course that there really is no such thing. But we so desperately need that thing to keep the spirit alive that we reject anything that opposes it.
Finding out that the golden pot at the end of the rainbow is nothing more than a illusion we create for easier self-motivation is hard to grasp for some.
Even impossible for others.
Specialists call it ‘cognitive dissonance’.
But before you go all crazy in the comment field, let me explain a little more what I really mean. Don’t get me wrong now, because I’m quite sure you have already.
I’m absolutely not saying that anybody should give up their dreams.
I’m simply saying that the reward that everyone is striving for isn’t located at the end!
It’s right by your feet!
The secret of Karate isn’t what’s on top of the mountain, but the climb itself.
And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll be able to change focus and actually get some stuff done.
So when you one day do get to the top, you’ll see for yourself that there never was anything there to begin with.
It’s just cold and windy.
What you’ll find is simply the sum of everything you already learned during your journey, but were too busy ignoring because you were so focused on looking up that mountain ahead of you.
Paradoxically enough, the great lie of Karate is that the future is the present.
The goal is the journey.
And in the end we will painfully realize that a lie is nothing but a great story ruined by the truth.
So let ‘the crane’ go.